Cliff Hangers – Attempting to Bring Back TV Movie Serials

Accomplished film and television producer and director Dean Zanetos of Burbank, California, started working in the industry more than three decades ago. Dean Zanetos, who is today chairman of Broadcast 3TV, Inc., and a producer-director with New Show Media, Inc., earlier in his career worked on the NBC drama series Cliffhangers, which attempted to bring back movie serials in a made-for-TV model.

Cliffhangers premiered on NBC in February 1979. The hour-long program consisted of 20-minute chapters of three story lines that continued week to week. The story lines included Stop Susan Williams, a murder mystery starring Susan Anton as a journalist investigating the death of her brother, and The Secret Empire, which followed a U.S. marshal (played by Geoffrey Scott) who comes across an extraterrestrial city in the Old West. The last story, The Curse of Dracula, starred Michael Nouri as Count Dracula posing as a college teacher in San Francisco.

Each segment of Cliffhangers ended with a shocking cliffhanger (giving the show its name) and was picked up at that point the following week. Critics praised the originality of the Cliffhangers programs; however, the show aired on Tuesdays opposite the most popular sitcoms on television at the time. Cliffhangers was cancelled after 10 weeks.

The Origins and History of the Clinger Sisters

Dean Zanetos is a television and feature film producer who has additional experience as a screenwriter and director. He is currently chairman of Broadcast 3DTV, Inc., in Burbank, California. Recently, Dean Zanetos produced the 2013 documentary The Clinger Sisters – The First Girls of Rock and Roll.

Noted for their transformation from a sister act performing pop and country tunes on network television programs such Andy Williams, to an underground rock and roll group, and finally to a Christian family band, the Clinger Sisters (or The Clingers, as they are affectionately known) are comprised of sisters Peggy, Patsy, Debra, and Leesa. Growing up in a highly musical household, each sister is said to have sung before taking their first steps, and as early as grade school they had begun performing together. It was at this young age that the sisters made their first of many Andy Williams appearances, a gig that led to the girls recording an album with Danny Kaye.

By 1969, however, the sisters desired a change of appearance and sound. It was around this time that the sisters began referring to themselves as simply The Clingers and taking on a punk-influenced, garage band persona. Their cover of Vanda and Young Easybeat’s “Gonna Have a Good Time” did not receive much airplay, however, and the group resumed backing acts such as Williams, Bill Cosby, and Tom Jones. Shortly after that, the girls disbanded, but in the 1990s the group resumed performing, this time with a Christian influence. Their latest record is The Fountain.

Dean Zanetos – Cliffhangers

Dean Zanetos has produced numerous motion picture and television shows throughout his career in addition to pursuing other projects ranging from photography to screenwriting. While working for Universal Studies, Dean Zanetos launched television series such as Voyagers and Cliffhangers.

The Cliffhangers television series first aired in 1979 and actually included three separate storylines, Stop Susan Williams, The Secret Empire, and The Curse of Dracula. Each of the storylines ran for about 20 minutes during each episode before ending the segment with a cliffhanger. The only connection between the three storylines was the concept of the inevitable cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.

In Stop Susan Williams, newspaper photographer Susan Williams traveled across the world in search of clues about the death of her brother, who died investigating an international conspiracy. The Secret Empire followed the story of U.S. Marshal Jim Donner and his discovery of an alien city hidden deep beneath earth’s surface. Finally, The Curse of Dracula placed the classic vampire story close to home with vampire Michael Nouri disguised as a college professor in San Francisco.